Dad is taking this front cover picture as Mom is busy feeding baby Donny. In the background are Granddad and Chuck with the rest of us kids circling the table. I am the one with my hand in front of my face, too busy eating to look at the camera.
Food is such a vital part of life! For me it has been a life-long puzzle and I have explored many options, trying to help my stomach to stop producing gas. I have read and experienced many diets, tried various cleanses and ways of eating and followed the guidelines of many experts. I have treated myself to the best quality food money could buy, but found that if it was eaten in a hurry, I didn’t digest it. Sometimes food tasted so good I couldn’t stop eating. Sometimes I couldn’t tell when I was full. For a while I ate according to the clock because I didn’t know when I was hungry. Gas has a way of taking up room so it felt like I was full, but in fact I was starving. I was so sure that my digestive upsets were a physical problem that it took me a long time to realize that maybe my emotions were affecting my digestion. When feelings arose in my body, I didn’t know what they meant so I ignored them. They were so subtle that I didn’t think they were talking to me. Delving into my feelings around food is helping me to get in touch with my inner self. I need to learn to trust my instincts or intuition around food, for I trust them with just about everything else.
When I was a child, food and love seemed to be intertwined. Desserts especially had a way of saying, “I Love You.” I had to eat everything on my plate because like everyone else, I heard from my parents about the children starving somewhere else. If I didn’t like the meal, I had to gag it down or starve in my room till the next meal. If I was too full to clean my plate, I certainly didn’t have room for dessert, so sometimes I overate. Exploring now, the possibility of food as a love substitute is helping me to change and grow in new ways, even though it has taken me twenty years of checking out all the physical possibilities before realizing that there might be an emotional connection.
According to the Oriental method of healing, the stomach, spleen and pancreas govern bodymind nourishment. Our lives depend on a continual supply of nourishment from outside ourselves. Digestion begins the process of transformation, turning nourishment into energy. It also influences the ‘digestion’ of information, sensation, feelings and emotions, as well as food. The stomach is easily affected by stress and not surprisingly correlates to tension in the shoulders and neck, a major stress point for me.
I have read much on the stomach and have now come to believe that my problem may be due to a combination of many things, including the emotional stuffing and a poor diet. Much of my diet as a child consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, milk products and lots of meat and potatoes. We ate very few sweets because there was no store close by, and for that I am thankful. When I consulted with Joel Whitehead, DTCM (Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine) he was able to show me that my stomach is prolapsed, and hanging two to three inches lower than it should be. This puts pressure on my intestines and other organs. The stretching and extra distance might be causing the delayed reaction as to whether I am feeling full or hungry. I wonder if this delayed reaction is a mirror for me, for I have noticed the same delayed response to people and events in my life when they upset me?
Between getting rolfed by Gary and Simon and having Neeshi sessions with Joel, which are intense to say the least, I booked a session of Jin Shin Do with Josey Slater because I knew I would need something a little more nurturing. Moments after she began holding points around my belly button, called the wind gates, I felt tears welling up from within. As I let them flow, I remembered a time when I confronted my Dad. Somehow, when I was a child, I knew he was about to kill some of our newborn kittens, so I pleaded with him to let them live. It did no good, and the next day they were gone. My Dad told me he had drowned them and they didn’t feel a thing, but later I discovered their remains in the woods, and I was very upset. My crying didn’t bother Dad, and Mom was not going to get involved, so I had to deal with my feelings in the only way I knew how and that was to stuff them. Sure, my Dad explained that the kittens weren’t pure bred Siamese, so they couldn’t be sold for money and would cause problems, but that lesson and a few others taught me that my feelings had no place in the everyday functioning of family life. Because my expressed sadness or grief over the killing of an animal was not taken seriously as a child, I developed a belief system that said, “Emotions are a waste of energy.” As I sobbed out this memory to Josey, she said “The spirit of those kittens still lives within you.” At that point, my stomach made a noise that sounded like a meow and we both roared with laughter.
When my Dad died in 1976 I never shed a tear, for I knew that was the way he would have wanted it. I was too busy raising a family and working to fly back home for his funeral. My brothers took good care of him during the last year of his life as he slowly died of liver cancer. My Dad was a very practical man and he didn’t spend money on useless things. I vaguely remember the argument Mom and Dad had when she took off to Oregon to attend her Mother’s funeral. It made no sense to him why anyone would spend money saying goodbye to a dead person, and I guess I listened.
As Josey finished balancing me, this question appeared in my mind. “What is the opposite of a practical, functional family, using a positive word?” She said, “A nurturing, emotional family.” I yawned and breathed deeply, releasing some very stale air from deep within my lungs, for I knew I had solved another small part of my puzzle. After I got off the table I could feel my intestines move sharply and I said to my partner Jan, and Josey, “It feels like a kink in my colon just undid itself.” That evening when I fell asleep, I felt so peaceful and loved.
I am starting to understand why I opened the Healing Centre. I need the nurturing it provides and I give thanks daily for Jan, Marcel and Michael, plus the many other honest and expressive souls that bare themselves with me as we learn together the new ways of being honest about our needs.
Writing this column helps me to put into words what I am feeling and to sort out how my feelings have affected me. Being a little less practical and a little more emotional will be good for the five-year-old in me and I intend to practice trusting my body’s sensations and figuring out what they mean. Information from books and the experts is wonderful, but it needs to be balanced with intuition.
I know that I have learned much from having a sensitive stomach and I am very grateful for this knowledge, for I know I chose it as my life-lesson, but it is time to heal myself.
PS. The Holistic Healing Centre in Penticton is sponsoring a Jin Shin Do workshop in May. The instructor, Bonnie Borgerson, will be at the Spring Festival if you would like to get introduced to this subtle but powerful technique to release repressed feelings. Please see ad on page 25.